FDA’s Taken a Stand Against Tobacco, But What’s the Role of Cities & States?


By Emilia Dunham

Program Associate, Reporting from the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act: Regulatory Science and the Tobacco Industryat Harvard School of Public Health on “The Regulation of Tobacco by State and Local Governments in the 21st Century” by Douglas Blanke of William Mitchell College of Law

Blanke shares that for the most part, state, cities and counties have led tobacco control efforts despite federal acts. For federal policies to take place, states and cities need to be active in enforcing federal policies and enhancing current policies. So what can be done?

6 Roles of States and Cities

  1. A Force Multiplier – states will enforce federal laws by compliance checks, as ears to the grounds to understand applicability
  2. Voice of Experience – wrestling with tobacco industry hasn’t always been pretty for states, but states have the first-hand experience of means to do this work
  3. Accountability – states/cities hold the tobacco industry accountable on the grassroots level and have to defend against the opposition
  4. Partners in policy – states and cities have more jurisdiction and power in certain ways to act that FDA does not. For instance, states and cities can add more bans and more warning labels than federally required.
  5. Experimentation – states and cities can experiment with new policies and counter-marketing when the federal government doesn’t have that same leeway.
  6. Hold the most powerful tools – States have the most powerful levers to achieving tobacco elimination visions

Though there are many steps that Blanke suggests for states and cities, he stresses that in many ways the FDA needs states and cities more than they need the FDA. So don’t be thinking the role of states and cities will be overshadowed by FDA announcements and acts or that it wasn’t the work of states and cities that got us here!

Published by Emilia Dunham, MPP, MBA

Emilia Dunham is currently a Project Manager at MassHealth/Department of Public Health, and formerly the Project Manager of the Life Skills project at The Fenway Institute, an HIV intervention study for young transgender women. Emilia worked at Fenway for 7 years, first as a Quality Control and Regulatory Assistant mainly involved with biomedical HIV prevention trials, before serving as the Program Associate for The Network for LGBT Health Equity, a network instrumental in many national LGBT health policy improvements. She is also involved with the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, serving as a Steering Committee member and the Policy Committee Co-Chair, an organization largely responsible for the recent passage of the Trans Rights Bill. Additionally she serves as a member of the Massachusetts Commission on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth, Co-Chair of the Recommendations Committee. Emilia received a Bachelor’s degree from Northeastern University. There she served as President of the LGBTQ student group where she planned programs such as Pride Week, Transgender Day of Remembrance, and AIDS Week. In addition, she advocated for LGBTQ inclusive policies and programming on campus such as a Gender Neutral Housing program, an LGBTQ Center and the expansion of Women’s Studies to Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Emilia recently earned a Master of Public Policy and Master of Business Administration in health policy and management from the Brandeis Heller School School for Social Policy and Management.

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